Mastering, Distorted Guitars and Crackling.....

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by Loud4areason, Nov 12, 2005.

  1. Loud4areason

    Loud4areason Guest

    Ok, this is a problem I seem to have often. The issue is basically this, my mixes sound fine. There doesn't seem to be anything wrong with them. Everything seems to sound clean and glitch free. Then I start messing around with mastering. Now if I am doing something clean with like acoustic guitars or a more clean sounding guitar then I can get a good sounding master. If I am messing around with a track that has wailing crunchy guitars then it seems by the time I add the squeeze with the limiter I am hearing this slight crackling sound. Now I realize I am driving the signal and some of this is to be expected. However I find that I cannot drive quite as hot as tracks produced by other people. I A/B and their track is nice and hot and yet doesn't have the artifact in their sound at all or else they have it to a much less noticeable degree than I do. The only way for me to get rid of it is to back up off the compression but then I lose the punch and my track doesn't match up to anyone else's in terms of volume. To make matters worse this only happens with tracks that have distorted guitars. I have tried different soft compressors, since I am doing most of this on a computer, and the result is the same regardless of the compressor I use.

    Has anyone else encountered this phenomenon and what, if any, tricks did you use to keep your level but get rid of the crackling? (best way I can describe it, it's kind of light but still there an more so than other tracks and it annoys me to no end)
  2. i dfe have wit the T-racks mastering suite. i found backing off 1 or 2 db on everything (eq, limiter, comperssor, saturrator) helped me
    hope this helps a little. i found taht a little here and there halped more than a drastic reduction in output level and you still get the same volume just about
  3. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    First of all, T-Racks is not a professional mastering platform and can do much more harm than good.

    What are you trying to do? Make the file louder? Limit peaks? Fix a tracking issue?

    You also cannot trust the meters on T-Racks.

    Now, let me give you an example here.

    Mastering houses that you pay money, to do proper mastering usually has tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of outboard equipment working in the analog domain. For a very small fee, you have access to that equipment by using their services. If you want to master the file digitally yourself, you first need to make certain you are using the proper tools. The "waves" bundles are high performace tools that work well (not as well as using outboards) for the project studio.


    Are you simply wanting to learn what mastering is all about?
    Do you have the resources to obtain the proper tools?
    Is this something you wish to release?

    Basically, what you are attempting to do is to try to go 120MPH on a tricycle. Without the proper tools, the results will be futile.

    Just how loud are you trying to make this file? What is the dBfsrms values you are shooting for? Is it realistic?

    The finest equipment has its limits. You may be trying to go so far that it is unattainium.

    With proper tools and experience in using them, you MAY be able to get the levels within a few DB of those who have the experience "how it is done" but even myself, draw the line when someone asks for levels that the digital domain cannot work within.
  4. i agree completely that T-Racks is not a profesional mastering meduim, nor do i profess to be an authority on the issue. i was just adding i have had simliar problems with a mastering suite and the way i solved it. I don not consider this "mastering" it is pre master for people who cannot afford to go down the road and spend 125 an hour for professional mastering. Sorry if you think i came off like i "master" i do not clame to master. just adding from an experince i have had. I belive that true mastering should be left ot professionals with experince and the correct outboard gear and ears. But for those of us who can't afford a higher end digatal to analog converter i belive that staying within the digital realm is the best thing for a project studio. I would be more than open to any other opinions on boosting track levels and gettng more clarity out of final mixes with out bringing the mix to a professional mastering house.

    I have seen a few reputable people master and it is a true art tht i do not claim to have the talent or cabality mental. I was in a few sessions wiht Alan Douches of West West Side Studio and in 10 minutes i understood that mastering is not something to take lightly. I def not snob that thinks i know everything, just giving my experince
  5. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Distinguished Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    The first thing I would do is check the levels on your recording. If they are at 0 dBFS already there is not much you can do in the way of mastering without creating digital overs. The second thing I would do is take the overall level of the song to -4 dBFS. Then you have some room to work. This will NOT do anything bad to the sound. But it will give you the headroom you need to "master" your tracks by using compression, limiting and EQ. If you are still getting crunching sounds then I would look and see what my settings were on the limiter compressor I was using.

    Mastering is an art but it is also a balancing act. You have to know what you are doing and know that by adding something here you maybe taking something away somewhere else. Lots of people think mastering is all about making things louder but there are ways of making things louder without distorting them and sometimes by the subtle use of eq, compression and limiting you can take something that is already loud and make it even louder but not make it sound bad.

    The quality of the incoming recording is also important as is the plugins you are using and the monitoring system you have.

    I would suggest going to a pro mastering house with one of the tracks you are having the most problems with. Pay the fee and ask to be there when the mastering engineer does the song, Watch and see what he is doing and how he doing it. The money will be more than well spent and you will learn a lot in the process.

  6. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    It sounds like you have some kind of internal clipping issue. It could be that you are maxing out the internal buses of your system, or you could be pushing your D/A over the edge. try to pinpoint where the clipping is occuring.
  7. GregP

    GregP Guest

    I agree with Michael. Even though your limiter may be set to brick-wall at "0dB", it may in fact be letting some samples over that mark, due to its knee settings or even simple 'whoops' programming on the part of the developer.

    Try backing your limiter down to -1 dB and see if that helps. If the crackling disappears, you're in better shape. You can then either just limit at -1dB and normalize the results, or incrementally increase your limiter's wall until you notice the crackling again.

    Or, you could do it backwards, which may work just as well or even more quickly. Try 'er out at -1dB just to see if that's the issue, and then for your 'increments', start off at -0.1 dB and go down from there.

  8. Loud4areason

    Loud4areason Guest

    Thanks for the reply guys. Actually I have been recording for a while now on My own. I like to write and compose as well as play and sing. I also happen to be a techie in many ways. I love the engineering aspect of music production as much as I appreciate the level of artistry it takes to write and compose. Anyway I have been building a project Studio for myself so I can experiment and learn about different things. Since I have been doing it a while I have gotten pretty good at recording/arranging and mixing. I am relatively new to Mastering. I am primarily doing this for my own education. In the end it is probably better to leave it to the pros.

    That being said my problem gets more interesting. One of the things I do with a track is I like to test it out on different mediums to see how it will translate. I don't have top shelf gear but I also am not working with the worst set up out there. I have an EMU 1820M as my primary I/O device and I have a UAD1 with pretty much their entire sweet of plugs. I also have wave products as well including the C4 and some of their EQs. For brick wall I mainly rely on the Precision Limiter for the UAD1. I simply feel it is the best that I have for that job. Anyway where my problem gets interesting is that I do not experience this problem when listening to the track through my EMU. In fact it almost sounds perfect to my ears. I need to tweak it here and there but no crackling whatsoever. I have the limit set to -0.1 DB as well. I also happen to have a consumer Audigy 2 that I like to use as a reference since this is more in line with what many people will be using. It is here where the problem manifests itself. Now to make sure of this I used the same headphones I used for monitoring on the EMU on the Audigy as well. The crackling could be heard on the Audigy but not on the EMU. Now I tried ABing this with some other tracks and even on some pro tracks I can hear some crackling but my track seems to sound a little worse than the others and it's noticeable.

    I decided to try your advice Greg and set my limit to -1DB. This actually did help some but it didn't completely get rid of the crackling when played back on the Audigy, however it was reduced considerably. I'm not sure but this may be a problem with the Audigy rather than with my Mix since the problem disappears on the EMU without making any changes. I guess my problem comes from the fact that I listen to other mixes and even pro tracks on my Audigy and though there is some crackle it isn't as bad as my track so I automatically assume I must be doing something wrong.

    Also to answer the other questions no I never go above 0DB on a mix. Usually I am between about -6DB and -0.5 on the main bus and none of the individual tracks go over as well. I monitor that pretty closely. Plus the straight mix sounds fine, no problems. It's only the version that I try to "master" that has this problem and it isn't consistent across platforms. Anyway if anyone has anymore ideas/suggestions/explanations I would appreciate it and thanks again for the replies.
  9. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    You are pushing you cheaper D/A's over the edge. This is actually very common. Better units are built with sufficient headroom to handle sustained volume (distorted guitars). A lot of consumer CD players are clipping by as much as 6db after the signal goes through the filters and reconstruction. The only thing you can try is tightening up the low end. This will give the cheaper units a bit more room to breath.

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